News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Place of abode? “here”

    Pre-printed baptism and burial registers were introduced after George Rose’s Act of 1812.  This meant that standardised information was given, whereas before it was up to the officiating clergyman how much, or little, he gave within the parish registers.

    One of the pieces of information asked for in parish registers after 1812, in both baptism and burial records, was for the “abode”, or address, of where the person in question lived.  In cities a specific street may be given, although often in more rural areas, just the name of the parish might be stated.

    In one case, our genealogists were looking at burials in the village of Sawbridgeworth, in Hertfordshire.  For place of abode, “here” was stated for most entries.  This was a rural parish, clearly with very few outsiders, who presumably would have been from over “there”!

    Sawbridgeworth burial register

  2. Really unhelpful baptismal entry from 1839

    Genealogical research will often ask more questions that it answers, and parish registers in particular can often omit essential information.  Sixteenth and seventeenth baptismal registers in particular often do not name the mother, and sometimes even the father.

    An early baptismal entry may simply give the date and “John Smith baptised”.  But a find by one of our researchers today asks even more!  The entry gives the date of baptism, 21st November 1839, no date of birth (they are given for other entries) and simply the surname: the name of the child and parents are simply not included.

    It just goes to show, that even into the nineteenth century frustrating parish register entries can still be found.  In this case, it should be the case that General Registration, which began in 1837, can help fill in the gaps, where the baptismal entry is lacking.

    Shaw bapt no names!

  3. How to trace your family history, a quick start guide.

    Starting family history research can be daunting, when presented with an array of websites online offering various records available to search.  However, it is important to start with the basics.

    1. Collate what information you have.  Talk to any older relatives about anything they remember.  Ask questions to prompt them, to help with dates etc.  For example, what was the weather like at your grandfather’s funeral?

    2. Birth, marriage and death records.  General Registration (GRO) began in 1837, and in theory every birth, marriage and death should have been registered since then. Various websites provide the quarterly indexes to GRO records, to obtain the relevant volume and page number required to order copies of the certificates.  With this information a certificate can then be ordered via the GRO website for a small fee.

    3. Census returns.  With the information from GRO, searches can then be made of census records.  The most recently available for public scrutiny is that of 1911, and again various websites allow access to these records.  These provide information such as age, place of birth and occupation which are essential when building up a picture of our ancestors’ lives.

    4. Parish registers.  Prior to the earliest census of 1841, and the beginning of GRO in 1837, parish registers are the most useful resource for genealogists. They record baptisms (rather than births), marriages and burials (rather than deaths).  The Anglican church should be the first place to start, unless the family has known links to non-conformists denominations or Roman Catholicism, which have different registers (where they survive).

    5. Probate records.  Wills can represent an excellent resource to add to our knowledge of our ancestors, and even labourers sometimes left such documents.  They are mostly available from the appropriate local record office, although records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are now available online.

    These are the main sources to use when starting out on your family history journey, but of course this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Delving into genealogy can take you on unexpected journeys – just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!

  4. What does extra-parochial mean?

    Sometimes in genealogy terms crop up which need further explanation.  For example, the phrase “extra-parochial” refers to an area which was outside the jurisdiction of any parish – these were often isolated areas, with poor farming, or land attached to a specific institution.

    There was no church, and no poor rate, and people resident there would attend a nearby church of their own choosing.  This is important to bear in mind when tracing ancestors who lived in these areas, for they may not appear in the parish registers of the nearest church, for example.

    Without an overseer of the poor or parish constable, the inhabitants were outside much ecclesiastical and civic control.

    In 1868 an Act was passed declaring that every extra-parochial place in existence on 25th December that year would be added to the adjoining civil parish with the longest common boundary.

    However, even then there do still remain some extra-parochial areas of land.  Extra parochial areas are marked in The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers.

  5. Tracing ancestors in death records

    So often in family history research, records of life are examined – such as census returns, and records of birth, baptism and marriage.  These build up a picture of where our ancestors were living and what they did for a living, but it is important to remember that death records can also provide valuable information.

    General Registration began in 1837, and the death certificates created provide a cause of death, where the death took place as well as the usual residence of the individual.  An informant’s name and address is also provided.  This record can provide an idea of the circumstances of ancestor’s death: for example, it could show whether an individual had to seek medical care in a workhouse at the end of their life, or whether the death merited a post-mortem.

    In turn, this could lead to other records, such as newspapers for an obituary or information on the post-mortem.  The certificate could also provide clues regarding family members, such as if a married daughter acted as the informant.  With information on her married surname, further research could be undertaken on her branch of the family.

    Prior to 1837, parish registers are the best source of information regarding deaths, although it is actually the record of the burial which appears within the registers.  After 1813 a standard amount of information is given – specifically, name, abode and age.  It is the information on age which is so important to genealogists: with this knowledge, an approximate date of birth can be calculated.

    Prior to 1813, it was up the clergyman how much information was recorded in the parish register.  Whilst a great deal of information could be provided by the incumbent, equally the entry could simply read “John Smith, buried”.  The burials of children are often noted as “John Smith the son of John Smith”, or sometimes “John Smith, infant”.

    Searching for burial records within parish registers can help to confirm whether a baptism found is relevant.  If a marriage took place a few miles away, and a possible baptism has been found in another village, check to make sure that the person baptised did not remain in the village: if he was buried there, then this suggests that he stayed living in the parish where he was baptised. In this way it is possible to  ensure that a family tree is as acurrate as possible.

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